By Sandy Thomas, a spring 2012 intern at The Leadership Conference Education Fund
Thousands of people gather in Alabama every year to commemorate the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March and continue the fight for justice and equality in America. The original march consisted of three different marches that grew out of the voting rights movement in Selma, Alabama, in 1965. These three marches reflected the political and emotional sentiment of the American Civil Rights Movement, and were arranged by the Dallas County Voters League, a group of local African-American citizens.
On Sunday, March 7, a day now known as Bloody Sunday, the first of the three marches commenced. State and local police attacked 600 civil rights demonstrators with clubs and tear gas as they tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge. But the marchers carried on and their struggle ultimately helped win the enactment of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Forty-seven years later, the right to vote and live free in America is once again under attack. Voter suppression bills, anti-immigrant bills, and “union busting” bills have been moving through countless state legislatures. This year’s march will protest these attacks.
As President and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights Wade Henderson has said, “These efforts amount to a coordinated campaign of intimidation intended to suppress the political will and empowerment of minorities, seniors, students, and low-income working people.” Henderson will be speaking during a rally at the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery on Friday, March 9.
The weeklong demonstration will include church services, community events, and rallies, in addition to the historic march. As we commemorate Bloody Sunday and the fight for civil rights in Alabama, H.B. 56, the state’s anti-immigrant law, has ushered in what many call the most draconian law of its kind in the nation. H.B. 56, which went into effect last September, has mandated racial profiling and created a humanitarian crisis in the state, where families are losing their homes and are afraid to send their children to school.
This year’s Selma to Montgomery march is an important opportunity to show solidarity with those who have suffered because of this law up and to stand up against voter-suppression and anti-immigrant bills in Alabama and across the country. On March 4-9, it will be time to act and make our voices heard!